Red Sox History: Ranking every squad of the 21st century
No. 5: 2003 Red Sox (95-67)
Overshadowed by the disastrous end to the season, the 2003 Red Sox had a case as the best offense of all time. They lead the majors in runs (961), batting average (.289), on-base percentage (.360), and set a major league record in slugging .491.
Bill Mueller won a batting title in the nine-hole, narrowly beating out teammate Manny Ramirez .326 to .325. Seven batters knocked in at least 85 runs, while six hit at least 25 home runs.
Wonderkid GM Theo Epstein built a lineup of on-base machines, as his offseason additions Kevin Millar (.343 OBP), Bill Mueller (.396), and David Ortiz (.369) all exceeded expectations.
The pitching staff, however, couldn’t pull its weight. Pedro was Pedro, but Derek Lowe (4.43) regressed, and the bullpen was a mess all season long. The Red Sox went into the season with a “closer by committee” approach, which proved disastrous as Brandon Lyon, Chad Fox, and Mike Timlin all disappointed when given save opportunities. The bullpen stabilized somewhat by October but never gained manager Grady Little’s trust. This proved costly when Little stuck with a clearly tiring Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS and watched as the Yankees tied and eventually won the game.
Despite the devastating final chapter, this team was arguably the most entertaining team of the century and set the stage for the team that would finally break the curse.